The inevitable inquest begins.
Why does every piece of transport go to pot in the snow in Kent and the UK?
Why can’t we be like the Swiss, the Austrians or the Scandinavians, goes the argument? KCC leader Paul Carter, who launched his gridlock-solving strategy on a day of extreme gridlock, suggests we should all invest in snow chains so we can at least drive our cars. But that would not be much help on the railways.
Blame flies everywhere. Just as last January, Southeastern is the whipping boy. Understandable, if you are stranded at a station or stuck in a cold carriage for hours on end. And more so when you are charged a fortune for the privilege.
The lack of information, the main complaint last time, has been the main problem this time around. Why on earth in this age of modern communications a steady flow of information should not be readily available is beyond me. It is little help for the operator’s spokespeople to say the website is updated.
Few people have Blackberries and other devices to access the internet remotely. And info is often overtaken by events. What passengers need are real announcements at regular intervals at stations and inside the trains.
They need to feel someone knows what they are doing and to have confidence in the staff. Unfortunately, both are sadly lacking, for all the efforts and passion of the rail crews. But it's over-the-top to call for Southeastern to be stripped of its franchise.
In more weather-friendly times, they have been doing a reasonably good job. And Network Rail probably should shoulder some of the blame. Southeastern has a partial technical excuse in that the third rail system with its conductor is appalling in bad weather.
Just look at the high-speed and Eurostar trains working pretty well with the overhead catenary. It would be great to replace the third rail with catenary, but in the present financial climate that’s unlikely to happen.
But I’m sure a technical whizz should be able to build heating systems into the third rail and the conductor pick-up. Some veterans seem to think things are worse now than they were a few years ago when the the system was the same. Has it got worse??
SouthEastern does not appear to have learnt much from January, and it should show a readiness to compensate season ticket holders for abysmal service, notwithstanding the harsh conditions. With commuters facing a swingeing inflation-busting increase in January, it would be a nice PR gesture to postpone the increase for a month or two.
How about it Southeastern – and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond? Passengers deserve compensation for their ordeal - as well as a decent snow-busting plan next time around. This chaos cannot be allowed to happen again, disrupting so many lives, damaging the economy and harming so many Kent businesses.